Sep 10, 2020

Shining Light through COVID-19

At AusCam Freedom Project we believe that every girl should have the opportunities, choices and freedom to live out her full potential and realise her dreams. We are doing that every day for hundreds of girls in Phnom Penh, but it is only possible because your support enables us to continue running towards (not from) enormous challenges. 

The last three months have been a massive example of that, as we have been providing essential emergency relief to keep girls safe, supported and encouraged. 

Here is how:

After receiving calls into our emergency hotline (The Freedom Line), we performed intake assessments on each girl to determine the situation and needed intervention(s) using our customised line of questioning. Over three months, we provided immediate intervention to 75 girls (new clients). Of those 75 girls, 62 of them received emergency relief packages, while the rest received other forms of crisis intervention or referral. There were a total of 434 full food/hygiene relief packages given out to 217 girls (two packages each set to last 2-4 months). Many more girls received top ups (rice support, menstrual hygiene kits, etc.) for a total of 993 people served.

Take Sreyneath for example. She is 15 years old, with two younger sisters, one of whom is a baby. Her mother left her husband (Sreyneath’s stepfather) on suspicion of abusing the girls. But he still makes unwanted visits to the house and Sreyneath was feeling pressure to drop out of school to support the family any way she could. “Anyway she could” would likely lead to exploitative work, or worse… trafficking.

When we received Sreyneath’s call on the Freedom Line, we instantly provided emergency food and hygiene relief to keep her and her sisters fed and safe while we sorted out what to do. Fast forward two months and her family is now food secure, her mother has learned how to protect her family using our network, Sreyneath is now studying by e-learning on her smartphone via the Ministry of Education and Facebook Live, and she has 24/7 access to our team for any help she needs.

The next part is up to her… building her own future. So we are also providing a safe environment and access to training, mentorship, leadership opportunities and educational support. She will be building her skills and confidence to do remarkable things.

Traffickers cannot prey on a girl who is protected, educated and motivated.

With the shifting environment, we are now combining our proven outreach tool (The Freedom Line) with our prevention model, which will culminate in a unique centre that will give girls at risk of being trafficked (or re-trafficked) opportunities and access to education while surrounded by an encouraging support network. Our focus on the quality and impact of our programs to prevent school drop out and increase girls educational outcomes will increase our overall impact of preventing trafficking and exploitation.

It is called the Shine Centre.
More details to come, but if you can’t wait, please visit our website (auscamfreedomproject.org)!

We envision a world free of exploitation and trafficking, and never before has the opportunity to lower the risk been given to those directly at risk. And we plan to look back and see a generation of girls who took that opportunity.

Thank YOU for being a part of that vision. 

Links:

May 14, 2020

Our news from Cambodia

Dear friends,

I hope this update from Cambodia finds you well. What an incredibly challenging time the past few months has been for us all. Although there has been such immense sadness with the loss of so many lives worldwide, loss of employment and people enduring long lockdowns and isolation, I personally have also witnessed incredible acts of kindness and humanity and in a strange way the world seems more connected than ever.


Covid-19 has impacted everyone. However, for the vulnerable and poor it has added further layers of hardship. We have seen this with the families of the girls we work with. Their income mostly is derived from informal work sources; taxi driving (motorbikes), rubbish collection and market sellers. Very quickly their means of survival was gone. With the closure of schools to prevent transmission of the disease, this now places extra pressure on our girls and heightens their risks to exploitation as demand falls on them to contribute to the families’ economic situation. At present, we have been advised that schools may remain closed until November.


Our response to our girls and their families was prompt. We quickly and strategically put into place relief efforts for our families and developed some other creative ways of being able to engage with our girls to ensure they were safe. We packaged together 165 food packages, health kits, phone top ups and COVID-19 education materials within a couple of days. Our Centre became a new distribution centre responding to an immediate crisis.


Our team of social workers remain in contact with our girls and their families weekly to monitor their wellbeing as well as setting up a community facebook group enabling us to continue engaging with our girls through mentoring, conducting video life skills training and generally allowing a safe space for the girls to remain connected.


Further to this, we have established a new service; a 24 hour hotline specifically for young women and girls all over Cambodia ensuring that we can reach and support as many girls as possible. The team have already been quite busy taking calls, going into the community to do assessments and delivering extra support packages to those girls and their families.


Just this week 2 very brave young girls, one 12 years and another 14 years called into the hotline saying they were hungry and feeling very anxious about their family not having any income and not being able to buy food for their families. Our team were able to respond immediately by visiting both girls and their families and delivering a food package. We have also had some distressing phone calls about young women who have experienced some quite traumatic situations. Our emergency response involved police, legal support and medical care. Although this hotline was initially established to support girls and their families during COVID-19, the calls we have received so far have indicated that this is going to be a continued need. Several of the girls who have called have also been enrolled onto our SHINE Girls Program meaning they will now receive ongoing support to attend school, mentoring and access to all our programs.


Although our work at the moment looks very different, our mission is still the same. To prevent the exploitation and trafficking of girls in Cambodia. We continue to be able to do this because of the generosity of all our supporters.  Thank you for allowing us to be first responders.

Let’s hope when I send our next GlobalGiving update in 3 months’ time the world is looking a little brighter.

Until then, stay safe and well,

Julie Dowse

Founder & International Programs Director

Links:

Dec 31, 2019

SHINE Girls Project

Dear Friends,


Our girls in Cambodia have recently completed another year of school and because of your support and belief in them, they are another year closer to fulfilling their dreams. While I would love to report to you that every one of our girls did exceptionally well and all passed their exams ~ it is important that we are transparent not only about their successes, but also their challenges. Regardless of their year-end academic results, we are incredibly proud of them - for their determination in creating a better world for themselves and their families.


Their grades in school are not inclusive of the incredible progress they have made. Given the environment where the girls live, keeping them in school is fraught with complexities.  Most of our girls come from homes where parents are struggling to earn enough money to put food on the table every day; they live in the urban slum communities with violence, alcohol and drug abuse, gambling and little to no access to important health and support services. The schools they attend are also under resourced with hot, dirty and overcrowded classrooms. Teachers are underpaid and often times hold back vital information in lessons and then require that students pay for their (illegal) 'extra classes'. When you combine this with their own family circumstances, you can see why we have to be proud of how far the girls have come.


Our vision is for every girl to graduate school, go onto university and have a future filled with endless possibilities. But we also need to reimagine what success looks like for each girl in her own context. Our team of social workers are passionate and persistent about supporting both our girls and their families as they navigate their own individual challenges; and our leadership team, both in Cambodia and Australia, are continually looking at innovative approaches to help our girls reach their full potential. For some, it may not be completing grade 12, but rather moving from school to vocational training or employment in a safe, empowering environment.


We will remain hand-in-hand with the girls -- placing their individual expectations and dreams at the forefront, not ours. Our primary goal has always been to keep girls safe, free from exploitation and illegal activities. Every girl at AusCam is just that -- safe and free. I want to assure you that we are continually reviewing, evaluating and seeking ways to improve our programming and that we are determined to help girls create a future free of exploitation and to ensure they have every available opportunity for a fulfilling future.


The Numbers:
o 174 girls enrolled on our SHINE Girls project 2018-2019 Academic year
o 149 girls sat final year exams (all grades)
o 138 girls passed exams 92.62%
o 14 cases closed throughout the year
o 10 girls did not attend their exam
o 11 girls failed their exam
o 1 girl passed away from a traffic accident


Individual Completion results:
o Grade 7 - 26 girls; 26 sat for exams; 26 passed - 100%
o Grade 8 - 27 girls; 1 didn't attend exams; 26 sat for exams; 25 passed - 96.5%
o Grade 9 - 17 girls; 3 didn't attend exams; 14 sat for exams; 14 passed - 100%
o Grade 10 -33 girls; 4 didn't attend exams; 29 sat for exams; 29 passed - 100%
o Grade 11 - 32 girls; 32 sat for exams; 32 passed - 100%
o Grade 12 -24 girls; 2 didn't attend exams; 22 sat for exams; 12 passed - 54.55%
Thank you for taking this journey with the girls and for your belief in the ability to end the exploitation of girls in Cambodia and we are excited to see what remarkable achievements our girls will have in 2020.

Happy New Year!

Yours warmly,
Julie Dowse
Founder & International Program Director

 
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